How many are lucky enough to have an amazing international community of co-workers and friends? I consider myself quite blessed to be part of the FMC missionary family. We are normally spread across the globe, united by WhatsApp messages and Zoom chats, but once in a while, we are (mostly) gathered together in one physical space.
One such moment is our annual “Year in Review” gathering—when missionaries come together for debriefing and processing, ongoing formation, fellowship, and prayer. The first week is geared toward missionaries who have spent the last year in the mission field. During the second week of retreat and formation, staff members are invited to join.
This past year, missionaries and staff were blessed with the wisdom of Sherry Weddell, founder of the Catherine of Siena Institute. Sherry’s work has become well-known in Catholic circles since the publication of her book, Forming Intentional Disciples. She is also the creator of the formational workshops entitled Called and Gifted.
Sherry presented Called and Gifted to our group. This inventory and formation is a tool to help people uncover their personal charisms—gifts given by God to be shared with others for the building up of His Kingdom.
In a room full of gifted missionaries, you might wonder why we needed to go through such a program. Well, I learned a few things along the way that I’d like to share.
What is a Charism?
A charism is not just a talent. It is a gift given for the sake of the Kingdom. So if I just do art for my own enjoyment, it might be an outlet, or even a gift or talent. But if I have an impulse to use art to build up others, to share beauty with the world, and to lead people closer to God, it may be a charism.
Different Gifts are Good
Even in an organization united by a similar mission, there can—and should—be a variety of charisms. It can be tempting to compare ourselves to others, or what we think is expected of us. In this charismatic community, I might feel as if I should have a healing or preaching gift. Would God have called me to be a missionary otherwise?
But perhaps my gift is to lead a group in musical praise, for example, while another prays over people for healing. Or, I may have the gift of encouragement, chatting with people one-on-one rather than preaching to a large group. I might have the gift of teaching and be more comfortable and fruitful giving catechesis to the children. Or the gift of helps—which I just learned about—that thrives in helping others to carry out a mission.
No one is without charisms. We are tempted to admire some over others. We may think that the “louder” the gift, the better. “That person is such a gifted speaker. I’m not able to evangelize like that.”
The truth is, we all need one another. “Quiet” gifts are just as valuable as the ones everyone seems to notice and praise. The Church and the world need each of us with our particular charisms.
The Combination Matters
My combination of gifts is unique to me. I am an extremely creative person. The top three charisms from my Called and Gifted inventory (a reflective quiz that helps us identify potential charisms) are what are termed “creative charisms.” The ones that have to do with organization and leadership? At the very bottom.
I could let myself become discouraged about what I don’t possess. But I look around the room and see that this ordering makes us unique. I spoke with a fellow creative friend, and she had organization near the top, whereas I had encouragement in my top six. We might both be creative, but our pairings make us unique in our approach to ministry and evangelization.
This experience allowed me to rejoice in my uniqueness. Sure, there are skills that I can develop more (like leadership), and ways that I can break out of my comfort zone (by praying over someone for healing). God can and will use us in unexpected ways. But I should value the charisms of others, even if they’re not my own. And I can be confident in using mine, even if they look different from another’s.
After the workshop, I felt even more compelled to use art as a means of evangelization. Where I live, sharing the Gospel is challenging. It can even be perceived as intolerant or hateful. But I also live in a very artsy community. And when we appreciate beauty, we appreciate the Creator Himself, even if we’re not fully aware.
The Beauty of Unity and Diversity
As I think of all my brothers and sisters gathered together in that room for Called and Gifted, I am in awe of the variety of charisms and grateful for the diversity in God’s creation. Throughout the week I had opportunities to share conversations and meals with my missionary family—including a “Feast of the Nations” potluck where we partook of food from around the world. What beauty in unity and diversity!
Going through the Called and Gifted seminar has given me a fresh perspective on St. Paul’s words:
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.
To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit;
to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit;
to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues.
But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.
– 1 Cor 12:4-11
If you are interested in discerning your own charisms, I recommend looking into the program at siena.org. Each and every one of us has unique gifts to share for building up the Kingdom. You are unrepeatable. God has placed you in a particular time and place with a unique set of charisms. Do not be afraid to use these to help set the world on fire!
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